Human Capital spoke to Vishal Nagda, Head–HR, Ozone Group, who shared the Group’s 15-year journey in the Real Estate space, and the reasons behind its astounding success. Espousing the irrefutable fact that the success of an organisation is determined by its employees’ wellness, Vishal shared the employee wellness initiatives adopted by the company. He also shared some of the employee engagement initiatives being carried out by the company and the lasting impact it has had on the workforce.
Tell us about Ozone Group’s journey and its business philosophy.
Established fifteen years ago, Ozone Group is one of the youngest and fastest-growing Real Estate companies in South India. Headquartered in Bengaluru, Ozone Group has spread its presence across major cities in India within a short span of time. Ozone Group is committed to providing a higher quality of life and redefining the standard of living through innovative real estate products. We distinctively differentiate ourselves through our unvarying focus on 3 core values - Customer Centricity, Quality, and Transparency. We have consistently stood at the forefront of design, raising the bar on aesthetics, functionality, infrastructure, and eco-friendliness.
Ozone Group's key differentiator has been well-designed infrastructure in all its projects. We also invest significantly to make our projects environment friendly; through rain water harvesting, solar heating and lighting, waste management and other similar eco friendly features. We firmly believe that customer delight is our proudest outcome, not only in the environment created around them, but also in terms of the committed service provided by us.
The Group is a professionally managed organisation, and is ably supported by more than 400 people comprising of design, architecture, finance, engineering, legal, commercial, strategy, human resources, corporate communication, sales, marketing, customer relationship management, & facility management departments. We also outsource best in class expertise within and outside India, for specialised requirements of projects. The company’s vision is ‘Delivering value destinations to live, work and play through innovative concepts in real estate development, abundant infrastructure and sustainable eco-friendliness’ and each of our employees works passionately towards fulfilling this vision.
“An organisation’s greatest asset is its people” has remained as a long standing thought. And the emergence of ‘workplace health and wellbeing’ is part of a narrative to take HR more seriously. How do you work towards elevating workplace wellness to the next level?
We believe that the wellness of our employees is key to the success of the organisation. We have created and successfully implemented an array of wellness initiatives to cater to the varying needs of individuals.
From running a ‘Quit Smoking Challenge’ with a cash prize Rs. 50,000/- for everyone who quits, to ‘H20 King & Queen Competition’ for drinking more water at work, we spread our physical wellness initiatives to cater to every individual. Our ‘Corporate Wellness Challenge’ identified high risk employees and supported them with a 6 month programme which included expert guidance on diet, exercise, and weight management. More than weight loss or monetary prizes, the focus of the initiative was to create habits leading to a healthy lifestyle to be adopted by the employees even after the challenge has ended. Each winner is recognised and rewarded by the Company to encourage others to follow suit the next time.
We also inculcate financial discipline among our employees by educating them about investment planning and assisting them during tax filing. We further support our employees by way of interest free loans for personal exigencies, scholarships for bright children, educational fees support by way of advances and ensure that the want for monetary resources never stresses our employees. Our special scheme supports employees to fund their self-contribution to buy an Ozone Home via EMI deductions from their salaries.
Our initiatives of employee well being are extended to their families as well. We conduct ‘Margdarshan’ career counselling sessions for children studying in classes 8th to 12th. We provide Special Leave for employees to spend their Anniversary/Birthday with their spouse/family members. Further, we have an assertive Leave Policy which ensures managers help employees to plan and take at least 18 leaves in a year to help them maintain a healthy work life balance.
We also conduct stress management workshops, laughter yoga sessions, parenting workshops, and provide transparent grievance redressal mechanisms to support the overall spiritual and emotional wellness of employees.
More and more employees want to work for organisations with a strong work culture and values, and getting this right is forever a challenge. On the employee engagement front, what common mistakes do you see organisations making? Also, could you share a few exciting developments at Ozone Group?
Employee engagement is an all-encompassing term which means different things for different organisations. At a base level, several organisations still misinterpret engagement with fun activities and assume that one fun or festive event is sufficient to ensure that the employees remain engaged.
What we fail to understand is that the levers of engagement are deep rooted in ensuring the all-round wellness of an employee. Only when you create an environment where everyone is aligned towards the company’s vision and goals, and is motivated to achieve them, you can say that employees are truly engaged.
“Only when you create an environment where everyone is aligned towards the company’s vision and goals, and is motivated to achieve them, you can say that employees are truly engaged.”
At Ozone Group, we have an annual Town Hall to ensure that all employees are in sync with the Company’s goals. We have devised an Ozone Communication Matrix for all seniors to ensure that business progress is regularly discussed with their teams. This enables a culture of transparency. We have an ongoing platform for employees to share their suggestions and feedback for improving the company processes. This is monitored directly by the CEO’s office to ensure prompt action.
Trust forms an important aspect of work culture, and being meritocratic in all decisions related to performance appraisals has ensured that employees have a say in their own career growth. We capture career aspirations as part of our Performance Review process, and these are tracked by the HR with the functional heads. All new positions are first opened up for internal movements via our ASPIRE programme, which helps employees grow into roles which they aspire to be in. These are over and above team events, celebrations, and fun at work, which has simply become a way of life for everyone at the Ozone Group.
Could you outline some examples of how company policies and initiatives at the Ozone Group are aimed at supporting women employees and building a gender-balanced workforce?
In spite of being in the Real Estate sector, Ozone Group is proud to have a healthy female ratio comprising 17.5% of our workforce. We target to further increase the ratio to 20% by 2020 and 50% by 2025. We ensure that all our policies are gender agnostic. There are no gender biases against females at the time of hiring for any role in the Company. In fact, there are many roles which are specifically culled out for female employees in the front end sales and customer relations teams. We provide the required infrastructure at all our construction sites for our female employees to work comfortably from site locations.
We conducted self-defence sessions to train female employees and their daughters to protect themselves, wherein we also distributed pepper sprays to all the participants. Women who need to work late are provided with appropriate safety measures like adequate security staff, surveillance and security within and around the office premises. We sensitise all employees about matters related to the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at workplace by conducting awareness sessions and also have a formal grievance redressal mechanism for all employees to notify any mental harassment faced by them.
During pregnancy, we sponsor female employees to take a second opinion from doctors in case there are any complications. And to encourage females to continue working after maternity, we provide them with flexible work options. Fathers are also provided with Paternity Leave on child birth to be with the new born.
In general, mothers and fathers are allowed to bring their kids to work on days where schools are off and both parents are working. Most importantly, to assist women in their growth, we ensure that there is parity in pay with their male counterparts and all decisions related to promotions are purely based on performance and potential without any bias on gender. This ensures a level playing field for females to grow in their respective functions.
What are the main focus areas of Ozone Group’s CSR initiatives? Also, what suggestions would you give to corporates for making CSR spends more impactful?
At Ozone Group, we have always believed in sustainable development. All our CSR development revolves around this focus area. We invest in our projects to be environment friendly by using the latest technologies in construction and resource management. As part of our CSR, we also reach out to a large community of construction workers and people staying around our projects to uplift the standards of their lives. When we adopted an island in the state of Goa, our first mission was to empower the local communities by way of education and self-help programmes. Employees are encouraged to take some time out during their working days, and spend it on training and monitoring the Self-Help Group operations on a rotation basis.
Ozone Group runs a special programme for all our blue collared employees to help them improve their English speaking and communication skills. This programme includes contractual staff like security and housekeeping as well. To show their support, employees actively converse with the support staff in English, thereby giving them a chance to put their classroom learning into practice. This has boosted the morale of all our support staff, while giving each and every employee a chance to participate in the programme.
Our employees at project sites are encouraged to interact with the construction workers and their families camping alongside to educate them on health, education, and safety aspects. We collect toys, books, and clothes, both new and used, which are then distributed among these families directly by the employees. This fosters trust and bonding between the contractual labour at the site and the Ozone Group engineers supervising their work.
In my view, running Charitable Trusts or funding NGOs as part of Corporate CSR does not create the required connect in the hearts of employees. CSR will only be impactful if you provide avenues for all employees to participate directly in it with a sense of ‘giving back’ to the society.
“CSR will only be impactful if you provide avenues for all employees to participate directly in it with a sense of ‘giving back’ to the society.”
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